What is the difference between a psychologist and a counselor or therapist?

Psychologist is a legally protected term.  It can only be used by a professional who has obtained a license from the state professional board of psychology.  In order to be licensed as a psychologist, an individual must complete a doctoral degree in psychology (Ph.D. or Psy.D), work for a minimum of a year under the supervision of a licensed psychologist, and pass both state and national licensure exams.  Someone who has earned the title psychologist has had training in assessment, development, cultural diversity, social and biological bases of behavior, as well as intensive clinical skills training and supervision. Counselor and therapist are terms without specific legal requirements.  Most often, services are provided by individuals with master’s level degrees in counseling or social work.

Is therapy right for me?

Do you feel overwhelmed by the issues that you are currently facing?  Have you or a loved one recently been diagnosed with a serious, life-threatening, or chronic illness? Does it feel like you have faced an avalanche of challenges?  Do you find yourself “censoring” when people ask how you are, so that you don’t “overload” or “worry” them?  Does it feel like the ways that you would normally cope with problems aren’t helping you right now?  Do you sometimes just wish that you had a place where you could talk openly about your struggles?  If you answered yes to any of those questions, therapy might be right for you.  Please feel free to email or call me to talk further about whether therapy is appropriate at this time, and whether I am a good fit for you.


Do I really need therapy?  I can usually handle my problems.

In my experience, even people who have good social support and strong coping skills can be overwhelmed when the circumstances of their lives shift suddenly.  New stresses, such an illness for yourself or a loved one, multiple losses, or a series of difficult changes, can all erode coping skills.  If you are facing these challenges, then therapy may add a valuable layer of support so that you can re-assess and strengthen coping.  Therapy can also provide a supportive, caring, outside perspective that may help you uncover harmful patterns and improve upon existing strengths.  I fully believe that seeking support when you need is a good indicator of overall strength in coping.

 


What is therapy like?

Every therapy session is unique and focused on my client’s specific goals, and so it looks a bit different from person to person.  In an initial session, I’ll ask questions about your social, medical, and family history, so that I am able to establish a solid foundation from which to assess how therapy can be most useful to you.  In subsequent sessions, which last for 50 minutes, we will work together to develop a set of goals for your time in therapy.  I generally try to meet with new patients once a week for 4-6 sessions, so that we can build a solid therapeutic relationship.  After that time, we will assess whether to change the frequency of your sessions based on your needs.

I am committed to creating a safe and supportive environment for each of my patients.  While you are in my office, I work to help you feel heard, valued, and cared for.  I want you to feel physically and emotionally comfortable.  I value your time, and work very hard to begin and end each appointment on time.


Is medication a substitute for therapy?

As a psychologist, I may be a bit biased about this.  However, research has consistently shown that, while medication can be useful in treating depression, anxiety and other conditions, the best outcomes are obtained when medication is combined with therapy.  Therapy focuses on understanding the causes of your emotional experience and on developing long-term coping strategies for managing emotions in a healthy way.  Medication is useful to relieve the symptoms of emotional distress, but does not resolve underlying issues.  I am happy to work with your psychiatrist or other physician in coordinating your mental health care.


Do you accept insurance? How does insurance work?

I do have an office manager who will submit billing to insurance.  However, I am out of network with most insurance plans, so it is important to talk directly your insurance carrier.  Check your coverage carefully and find the answers to the following questions (these are not questions that my office manager can answer, or that the insurance company will share with us):

  • What are my mental health benefits?
  • What is the coverage amount per therapy session?
  • How many therapy sessions does my plan cover?
  • How much does my insurance pay for an out-of-network provider?
  • Do I have a deductible for mental health benefits (a deductible is a set amount that you must pay before your insurance company begins providing benefits)?
  • Is approval required from my primary care physician?

I also work directly with clients who do not have insurance benefits, or who choose not to use them because of privacy concerns.

 

Will you put a label on me?

Many clients are very concerned about diagnostic labels in mental health.  I’ll be happy to talk with you more about diagnosis, and what is involved in diagnosis.  With each client I see, I am thinking about their presenting concern, the challenges they are facing related to that concern, and what course of treatment will be most helpful.  So the short answer to this question about labeling is: it depends.  If you are using insurance benefits, I am required to have a diagnosis.  Insurance companies will not release your benefits without a diagnosis.  I try to use the diagnosis that most reflects the developmental or temporary nature of my client’s condition.  For clients paying out of pocket, I am not required to have a specific diagnosis.  I am able to develop a treatment plan that best fits your needs without adding a label.

Is therapy confidential?

In general, the law protects the confidentiality of all communications between a client and psychologist. No information is disclosed without prior written permission from the client.

However, there are some exceptions required by law to this rule. Exceptions include:

  • If you choose to use insurance, I will need to submit identifying information and diagnostic information to your insurance company.  This may become part of your permanent health record.  You provide permission to share information with insurance as part of the intake paperwork.
  • Suspected child abuse or dependent adult or elder abuse. As a mandated reporter, I am required to report this to the appropriate authorities immediately.
  • If a client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person. I am required to take necessary steps to promote safety, which will include notifying the police.
  • If a client intends to harm himself or herself. I will make every effort to work with the individual to ensure their safety. However, if an individual does not cooperate, additional measures may need to be taken.

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